Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not the Same

My wife, who used to work, as a teenage, at an industrial scale vegetable canning facility, out in Southern Wisconsin, tells me that once the order for some brand label has been filled, if there is still material left over, it is canned to the same standard, but it gets a Brand X or a Store Brand label.  Same food, different name.  As a result of this, I have pretty much lost my attraction to brand labels.  That said, once in a while the look alike is different.  Just ask Kad Barma about Shaw Farms milk.  He pays extra for Shaw Farms milk.

So, this brings me to Market Basket out at Stadium Plaza, at 10 Main Street, in Tewksbury.  From time to time they have Nabisco Pinwheels.  What a delightful snack.  The cookie.  The Marshmallow.  The wonderful chocolate coating.  They are wonderful.  And, one can order them via Amazon.  $60.95, plus shipping, for a dozen packages.

When Market Basket is out of Nabisco Pinwheels it has the Market Basket "Fudge Marshmallow Fudge Covered Marshamallow Cookies".  Maybe that isn't the way it is.  Maybe they usually have the store brand and only once in a while, as sort of an enticer, do they have the Nabisco brand, what I would call "the real thing".

The reason I make the contrast is that the Market Basket version is a much inferior product.  The chocolate is not as good, the Marshmallow is not as generous and the cookie at the bottom seems smaller.  Speaking to the chocolate, it lacks the color and the crunch and the taste of the Nabisco version.  It is inferior, and that is from someone who doesn't know from cooking.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Sweet Chocolate Coating (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, Soy Lecithin - An Emulsifier, Vanilla - An Artificial Flavor, Salt, Milk), Corn Syrup, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cocoa, Caramel Color, Gelatin, Baking Soda, Salt, Artificial Flavor.

VEEP on Bin Laden Raid

Joe said no?
Vice President Joe Biden confessed this weekend that he advised President Obama not to launch the mission that ultimately killed Osama bin Laden last spring.
First, the fact that the Vice President has been incorporated in the Kitchen Cabinet is a bad idea.  He is the "President in Waiting".  What if this was a different issue and the Congress found it an impeachable offense?  Shouldn't they then have to impeach and convict the Vice President as well as the President?

Second—why do we need a second point?  The first point is sufficient.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 30, 2012

Love Me Tonight

Today I dropped in the mail to Netflix a copy of the DVD of the 1932 musical comedy, Love Me Tonight.

Before you add it to your Netflix list, my wife's advice is to skip this, asserting that this is not one of Rogers and Hart's better collaborations.

But, I liked the movie, staring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald.  Also in the movie was Myrna Loy, in a supporting role in which she showcased some of the presentation that would show up in her role as Nora Charles.  And, someone we think of as an older character actor, Charles Ruggles, who was also in the 1961 version of The Parent Trap.

I liked the beginning of the movie which shows an aerial view of Paris and then focuses down on a workman using a pick on the street.  The sound is rhythmic and to that rhythm is added the snoring of a man sleeping outside, and then a woman sweeping in front of her door.  Then more sounds are added, creating a rhythmic picture of Paris waking up.  Then we cut to the room of Maurice Chevalier, a tailor.  From there the story proceeds.

I liked several of the songs, including "Isn't It Romantic?"  Here is a clip from the film.  And a Tony Bennett rendition.  And here is "Mimi", which can be found here.

Per the imdb site, the film was:
approved with eliminations in ... and Massachusetts.
Now it seems nothing is banned in Boston.

UPDATE:  I woke up this morning and remembered that there was something I wanted to note in this post, but forgot, which I attribute to the lateness of the composition.  There is a term to describe Mr Chevalier's way of singing, Sprechgesang. It is a term I had never seen before researching this blog post.  It used to "refer to an expressionist vocal technique between singing and speaking."  And that is one of the things I like about Mr Chevalier's singing.

One of the down sides of the movie is the sound quality.  Sometimes the singing seems to trail off.  But, still, I enjoyed it very much.

Regards  —  Cliff

My Head Hurts

It seems to be a pretty warm winter, but here is The Daily Mail claiming that Global Warming is passé and we are looking at upcoming "Frost Fairs" on the Thames.

Then, it turns out that Greenland didn't lose as much ice as was suggested here recently.  It isn't clear to me the cause of this gaffe.

I tried to trace back to its source another item, re the Canadian equivalent of the EPA, from the American Geophysical Union, but got lost several times and gave up.  Supposedly it said:
Nathan Gillett and his co-workers at Environment Canada in Victoria, British Columbia, analysed how well the latest Canadian Earth System Model tracked temperature changes attributable to volcanoes, man-made aerosols and rising greenhouse-gas emissions.  They adjusted the model using temperature records from 1851 to 2010 — 60 years of data more than most previous analyses.  The model predicted a short-term increase of 1.3–1.8 °C for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which is low in the range of estimates from previous forecasts.
Clear?  Not to me.

But, as I have said before, what I have not seen is a discussion of how we can exploit and accommodate global warming, if that be the future.  Put another way, we need a bigger discussion.  Put a third way, this is not necessarily the best of all possible worlds.

Regards  —  Cliff

Not That Margaret Fuller

That is to say, not the woman who lives in the Belvedere section of Lowell, but a woman born in Massachusetts in 1810.  The New York Times Book Review from last week, 22 January 2012, has a review of a new biography, The Luives of Margaret Full: A Biography.  The author of the book is Mr John Matteson and of the book review is Ms Mary Beth Norton.

The subject of the biography, Ms Fuller, seems to have led an extraordinary life.

My problem is with the lede:
Margaret Fuller, a woman of great talent and promise, had the misfortune to be born in Massachusetts in 1810, at a time and place in which the characteristics of what historians have termed “true womanhood” were becoming ever more rigidly defined.  Well brought-up women like herself were to be cultured, pious, submissive and genteel.  Fuller, by contrast, was assertive and freethinking.  She was also—and to some extent, still is—a difficult person to like.
My problem is the idea that it was a misfortune to have been born in 1810.  Per the review she seemed to have been sufficiently free to have edited a Transcendental quarterly, to have met Mr Horace Greeley and to have been "the first full-time female employee of his New-York Tribune" and to have written a book.  Her relationships, as reported, were wide and varied.  She seems to me to have flourished.

OK, I will grant you that she didn't benefit from indoor privies or air conditioning.  Aside from that, one era is like the rest, an opportunity do your very best.  She took advantage of her talents and prospered.  She certainly was not submissive.  She seems to have been cultured and, in her own way, pious.  Genteel I can not judge.

Regards  —  Cliff

Jonah at Nineveh

Not yesterday, but the Sunday before, the First Reading was from the Book of the Prophet Jonah.  As we recall, Jonah was dispatched by God to preach to the people of Nineveh, so that they would learn right from wrong.  Jonah doesn't like the assignment and tries to run away to sea.  This is interesting in that Nineveh is located where modern-day Mosul sits, in Iraq.  It is pretty far from any large body of water.  I do admire the fact that, when the sailors decided someone aboard the ship is jinxed, Jonah rogers up and allows himself to be thrown into the sea.

The reading skipped all that time at sea and focused on the mission execution and the response of the people of Nineveh.

The question that came to me is why they repented of their evil ways?  Was it that Jonah scared them good and hard?  Was it that Jonah was such a good preacher?  Was it something else?  I do allow that for some the answer is that all fiction is dross and thus of no value, either in the reading or the contemplating and the Book of the Prophet Jonah is fiction.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Warming Trend

From the Fairbanks newspaper, the Daily News-Miner, We have this paragraph in an article on the 50° below zero temperatures:
“We’re looking for one more cold night tonight, then things are going to start warming up on Monday — we’re expecting highs of 10 to 15 below,” Malingowski said. “It will still get cold in the evenings, but it will definitely be warmer in the hills.”
That is Interior Alaska for you.  You increase elevation to find warmer air.

Regards  —  Cliff

Understanding of Science at NYT

In his article in today's New York Times "Sunday Review", Mr Frank Bruni says:
Besides which, there are problems with some gay advocates’ insistence that homosexuality be discussed and regarded as something ingrained at the first breath.
This is either a bad understanding of how genetics works or a contradiction of the position that genetics determines sexual orientation.  The third alternative is that Mr Bruni is scared to death of an argument that descends into the question of if life begins at conception.

Regards  —  Cliff

Iran and Nuclear Weapons

I am not convinced by this analysis, but it is interesting.  The thrust of it is that since 1945 the acquisition of nuclear weapons have made nation-states more conservative in terms of their militarization of disputes.  Thus, it is likely that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons it will be more conservative.

I have my doubts that this analysis gives us a rule cast in iron.  On the other hand, I do believe that for Iran to move with just one or two nuclear weapons would be to invite wholesale destruction of Iran and its People and the dividing up of its territory amongst other nations.  (This is baring the return of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi.)

But, this is a topic that needs to be thought about.  I don't think I have yet heard from any Presidential Candidate who is able to articulate a nuanced position on this topic.

Regards  —  Cliff

Suing Bloggers

WCAP Talker Warren Shaw has sued a blogger and Left in Lowell has blogged about it.

I wonder if this is more like Righthaven?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thinking Together

I read an article in the 30 January issue of The New Yorker, in which the author, Jonah Lehrer, talks about "Groupthink".  The URL is here.

You need a subscription or you have to pony up some money to read the whole thing.  I would have copied it out, but not easy for The New Yorker.  If you live near Lowell I will loan you my copy.

I mention this article because the author makes three points, which might be of interest to those in the area of getting the best ideas out there.

First, research shows that Brainstorming, as given to us by Alex Osborn back in the late 1940s, doesn't work.  That was a disappointment to me, but if that is the case, that is the case.  Apparently what works better is providing evaluation and criticism along the way.  So much for the brainstorming approach.

Second, one professor looked at Broadway Musicals and trying to match the relationships amongst the various people involved.  He found that when there was no relationships amongst the production staff (Q=0), a likely critical and economic flop.  When there was very high relationships (Q=5) then the chances of success was low.  But, there was a sweet spot (Q=2.5) where some were close and some re new to each other and that is where there was success.  It reminds me of a tag line Greg Page uses on his Emails—attributed to General Patton “When everyone is thinking alike someone isn’t thinking”.  So, this would suggest staffs need an injection of fresh talent from time to time.

The third point I picked up was that buildings and physical layout matter.  The author cites Steve Jobs and Pixar, and how Jobs was always trying to rearrange the Hq so that folks had to run into each other, and thus start conversations.  The author also cites a Temporary building at MIT, Building 20, which was a place of high intellectual productivity.  Being a temporary building folks were fairly free to knock down walls and even open up floors.   The author claims that Amar Bose invented his speaker system while interacting with folks while he was supposed to be somewhere else, writing his thesis.

Final paragraph from the article:
The fatal misconception behind brainstorming is that there is a particular script we should all follow in group interactions.  The lesson of Building 20 is that when the composition of the group is right—enough people with different perspectives running into one another in unpredictable ways—the group dynamic will take care of itself.  All these errant discussions add up.  In fact, they may even be the most essential part of the creative process.  Although such conversations will occasionally be unpleasant—not everyone is always in the mood for small talk or criticism—that doesn’t mean that they can be avoided.  The most creative spaces are those which hurl us together.  It is the human friction that makes the sparks.
Thus the value of “Think Tanks” and places like National War College.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Republican Establishment

I know Governor Sarah Palin irritates Kad Barma no end but after ignoring this item at Hot Air and elsewhere, I finally read it when Neal sent me a link.  I think Gov'r Palin makes a good point with regard to the Republican Establishment.  As my wife likes to parse it, "the down town Republicans and the grass roots Republicans".  I realize the grass roots Republicans scare the heck out of Democrats, but the grass roots Republicans are concerned they can't see much difference between down town Republicans and Democrats and see that as a problem.

For me, the real question is who can be creative in providing good solutions to our problems.  (Those of you who are thinking along the lines of Keynes and Krugman should put your hands down.  You will not be called on.)

Regards  —  Cliff

A View of Karl Marx

"The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence:  Hate the man who is better off than you are.  Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community.  Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others.  Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects—his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity.
American economist Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993)
Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, January 28, 2012

67 Is The New 65

I came across an online article from the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget that talks to reform plans in three States for their public employee retirement plans.  it is a start.  We need to be thinking realistically about our future as a nation.  Retirement should not be a time of high living on the backs of the working taxpayers, but it should also not be a time of poverty and suffering.  It should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment and even creativity.  Not a time of anxiety.  Prudent pension reform will help reduce most everyone's anxiety.

Regards  —  Cliff

The 1%

Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren:
I'm not one of them.
At the link to Hot Air, "Allahpundit" actually, sort of, defends Ms Warren, re her interview with Commentator Lawrence O'Donnell.

Regards  —  Cliff

Starbucks and CC

On Valentines Day some are suggesting a boycott of Starbucks, because, if your State allows it, you can be packing in Starbucks.  That seems straight forward and by the Constitution to me.  But, some are concerned and wish to boycott.  That is fine, but the rest of us, whether we like coffee or not (not) or go to Starbucks or not (not), should visit a Starbucks on Valentines Day and buy something with a Two Dollar Bill, in honor of the Second Amendment.

I think the hat tip goes to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Growing Old

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.  People grow old by deserting their ideals.  Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul.
Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964)
American general and field marshal
My oldest son, who is not a particular admirer or General Douglas MacArthur, sent this along to me.  Maybe he is trying to cheer me on as my wrinkles grow.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hillary Comments

What do you make of this?  The original item can be found here, from Karen de Young.

No Hillary as VEEP?

Regards  —  Cliff

Brokered Convention Alternate View

Not everyone is with me in hoping for a brokered Convention to save the Republican Party this election cycle.  For example, there is Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air.  Remember, Cap't Ed was the Chap from the Twin Cities who helped bring the Conservatives to power in Canadian, through his revelations about the Grits (Liberals) and their Adscam imbroglio, from his then blog Captain's Quarters.

But, it doesn't mean he is correct ALL the time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our National Interests

Here are a set of rules to help frame strategic issues, from Stanley R. Sloan, a former intelligence analyst and an authority on the North Atlantic Alliance.  They come from a report to Congress in the 1990s.  So, here are his five critical question that need to be answered to understand what role the United States can (should) play in the world:
  1.   What do we need (what are our vital interests)?
  2.   What do we want (what are our "important" interests)?
  3.   What do we stand for (what values should guide our actions)?
  4.   What are we willing to pay for?
  5.   What are we willing to have Americans die for?
Quoting Mr Sloan,
Granted, it is a pretty simplistic construct, but the fact that the questions are likely to produce a wide variety of answers among Americans, perhaps particularly among elite policy thinkers/actors and politicians, may suggest why it is difficult to develop a "grand strategy".
For instance, is Europe in our vital interest, and if not, what about the UK?  The Panama Canal (it used to be)?  Canada?  Mexico?  Guam?

In evaluating Representative Paul's proposals, we need to think in these terms, just as we to when evaluating the proposals of former Speaker Gingrich or Governor Romney or anyone else running for high office.

Regards  —  Cliff

DoJ Action Supports Hollywood?

Here is an alternative view of the takedown of the Internet site Megaupload.  This happened at about the same time the crescendo against SOFA and PIPA peaked.  The article is titled "MegaProtectionism For The Record Companies?".  Here is, literally, the bottom line:
Copyright protection is a legitimate problem in the digital age, but if the speculation here turns out to be accurate, the Justice Department has been used to facilitate the crib death of a legal competitor to the RIAA.  If that pans out, we've got a much bigger problem than piracy to worry about.
I fully agree with all of this paragraph.  Copyright protection is a legitimate problem and if this raid on Megaupload was corrupt we have much bigger problems that piracy to worry about.

From the Comments Section, this cynical view:
Kim Dotcom's downfall is that he couldn't get big enough fast enough to buy him some politicians.

Lazarus Long's classic quote:  Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people.  Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people slip back into abject poverty.  This is known as "bad luck."
I would say that for a portion of the population the conduct of Operation FAST AND FURIOUS does nothing to ease such concerns.

Was this the kind of signal Lobbyist Chris Dodd was looking for?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another New Blog in Town

The Lowellest Common Denominator.  Hat tip to Lynne and Left in Lowell.

It strikes me as Kad Barma, but with a functioning Shift Key.  And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sexual Equality Question

Over at the Althouse blog we have a comment from Craig, regarding this post:
You can't be for equality and still demand to [be] allowed to hit from the ladies' tee.
Is Craig correct?  Is Craig being fair?

For sure, to me equality means young women register for the draft.

Regards  —  Cliff

Helping School Students

Nice story on the immense value of teachers.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pelosi on "President Gingrich"

The House Minority Leader, Ms Nancy Pelosi, says, about a Gingrich Presidency,
He's not going to be President of the United States.  That's not going to happen.  Let me just make my prediction and stand by it, it isn't going to happen.
Does she know something we don't know?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Third Bay of Pigs?

I am not at liberty to discuss the Second Bay of Pigs, but we all know about the First, when Cuban Rebels were defeated by the Troops of Fidel Castro, back in 1961.  That mess made newly inaugurated President John F Kennedy look weak and ineffective.

Now we have Candidate Gingrich bringing to mind a Third Bay of Pigs. The headline I saw was "Newt Gingrich:  I will overthrow Castro Regime".  It may not have been that former Speaker Gingrich meant that he would actually invade, but I think it has been taken that way in some quarters.


It isn't like the other candidates are much better in the area of foreign policy.  And, Rep Ron Paul, with his plan to go isolationist isn't any better.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Long March to the Convention

For a second day the chap over at the Weekly Standard, William Kristol, has made a comment about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.  The first was here.

A petition is mentioned.  Of course, the problem with the petition is that it is to Governor Daniels and not his first or second wife (those being two sides of the same coin).

This is the second comment, here.

Yes, more and more people are seeing the light of a "brokered convention".

Not withstanding 20-some debates, Republicans are not yet comfortable with any one candidate.  So, let the games continue.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

Elliot Motion for Tonight

On City Life today someone called in and wanted to talk about the motion being put forward by City Councillor Rodney Elliot tonight, calling for the City Manager to pass to the City Council the resumes of all those being considered for places on City Commissions (e.g., Library, Licensing, Zoning).

Here is the take over at Gerry Nutter's Blog.  And, the motion is, per the agenda,
18. C. Elliott- Req. City Council adopt a policy to require the City Manager to submit resumes of applicants for all Boards and Commissions that require City Council confirmation.
Gerry has also provided a link to the complete agenda.

Gerry is opposed to releasing the resumes.  I think I feel the same way.  My question is, what does Solicitor Christine O'Conner think?  Tonight, perhaps, we will find out.

As a side note, those who are less than charitable might think that the issue isn't resumes, but the Manager.  That would be the "subtext".  Subtext is one of the catch phrases in the TV Show Castle, which runs on Mondays at 10:00 PM.

Did I mention that I am with Gerry on this?  I am.  Vote no.  On the other hand, let's put this behind us one way or the other and move on to our big issues, like economic development and education.

Regards  —  Cliff

PIPA Supporter

Does this mean Senator Al Franken, the Junior Senator from Minnesota, is a joke?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 23, 2012

Protecting Privacy

Another unanimous SCOTUS decision, discussed at the Althouse blog.  Do you think "trespassorily" is a real word?  My spell-check doesn't.

Does SCOTUS prove DC works?

Regards  —  Cliff

Jane's Law

I missed this when it came out, almost a decade ago.  It is called Jane's Law, after Blogger Jane Galt:
The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant.  The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
This showed up at the blog Asymmetrical Information on 21 May 2003. 

Regards  —  Cliff

  It turns out that Jane Galt, a word play on John Galt, is really Journalist Megan McArdle.
  The blog Asymmetrical Information went dormant 5 January 2008.

Beware of Geneticists

O F F E N S I V E   L A N G U A G E   W A R N I N G
Not here, but at the link in the second paragraph.

The Governor Scott Walker recall campaign in Wisconsin is heating up.  Attitudes are moving toward the peg.  The "alternative" Madison weekly newspaper, Isthmus, picks up the flavor.

Blogger Ann Althouse has captured the level of rhetoric in Isthmus and it's Comments Section.  An extract:
What she actually told me is that if I voted for a Republican she would build a time machine, go back to 1971 and have an abortion.
My take away is that once we have identified the gene or genes that control political choice, those for "choice" in carrying to term will be more likely to exercise that choice if they don't like the possible Election Day results.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Post South Carolina

The "Newtessence of it all".  Professor Althouse went to a concert last night and contemplated Newt.

Regards  —  Cliff

New Blog in Lowell

Thanks to a link from the Dick Howe Blog I found my way to the new Paul Belley Blog, Captain's Log.  He already has four "Friends" listed on his blog.  Welcome, Cap'n.  The Blogosphere is a fun place and with Gerry Nutter having to dial it back a bit due to a new job there is plenty of space in the Lowell Community.

Regards  —  Cliff

Four French Soldiers Receive Honors

At 5:27 this morning the following arrived in my EMail in-basket.  For me it was moving, and it spoke to how the war in Afghanistan is not just about us, and not just about the People of Afghanistan, but it is about a wide variety of people who united to deal with a global terrorist threat that emerged on 9/11.  The question of if we are done in Afghanistan is one that needs to be debated, in a serious way, but for now one of the most important things is honoring the lives of men and women who gave the last full measure in pursuit of what they saw as a better world.
Subject:  From Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan:  Ten minutes ago...

It is cold here today, and it is snowing.  The tarmac is covered with a light layer of slick snow as we walk out towards the aircraft.  There are almost two hundred of us at the start, but the numbers grow.  We have arranged ourselves in two lines.  It is at least a hundred yards from the plane to the end of our rows.  There are three or four hundred of us by the time the trucks arrive.

There are two of them.  Thankfully, no more are needed today.  Ancient flat-bed Renaults with no sides, painted a plain green, these trucks are no longer suited to field work. But for their cargo today they do the job.  Two caskets per truck, each covered neatly with the Tricolor of France.

Closest to the plane is the French Honor Guard, then the French contingent from this base.  The rest of us, the greater mass, wear no particular uniform.

Ten yards to my right, and on the opposite side, I see some Mongolians.  Directly across from me are Belgians and Germans, a few Americans, and a Brit.  To my left there is a contingent from Spain.  Portuguese are behind me to my right.  At least fifteen nations have uniforms in these lines.  My ears are cold.  We have been out here half an hour.  We will be here an hour more.

There are four French soldiers walking slowly in front of the trucks as they move from the hanger. Each carries a red pillow.  I cannot see, but I know what is there.  These are the awards and decorations, Napoleons "bits of ribbon," which his countrymen still find useful, and which these men had earned in life.  Behind them comes the first truck, and the pall-bearers, at the slow march.  Then the second, and then more men to carry their comrades.  They come to a halt at the end of our rows, at the end of the cordon of honor we have formed, at the end of their time here in Afghanistan.

The French Minister of Defense arrives, with the Chief of Defense and the US Marine who commands us here in Afghanistan behind him. We are called to attention.  It is not a sharp movement.  We have not rehearsed this, and we speak dozens of different languages.  But in this, we understand each other.  What crispness is lacking is more than compensated by the nature of the compliance to the order.  We are here, all of us, of our own free will.  To render unto these fallen men of France the respect they deserve.  They were soldiers.  They would have understood.

And then they come, they pass, and they depart. Hand salutes are rendered, dropped, rendered, dropped.  Once for each man's body as it leaves this place and is taken into the belly of the plane, to be returned to the motherland, La France.

And then we are done.  We return to our work.  Picking up our labor where we left off.

Nothing further to report.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bateman, US Army, is a soldier and an historian.  He is currently serving in Afghanistan, assigned to International Security Assistance, Force Joint Command, Afghanistan.

Thank you LTC Bateman.

A news article on the original incident, which resulted in the death of these four soldiers can be found here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I am watching the returns on the Fox Business Channel.  Business Analyst Neil Cavuto does a good job.  He got Political Analyst Larry Sabato to concede that there is a real, albeit small, chance this will go to the Convention.  (I hope so.)  The key number is 1144 delegate votes to win the nomination.  The candidates are still in the lower double digits.

As I write, Mr Gingrich is at 40%, to Mr Romney's 27%.

Regards  —  Cliff

Losing Walter Cronkite

On 27 February 1968 News Anchor Walter Cronkite, commenting on the Tet Offensive, said inter alia,
To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.
In response, President Lyndon Baines Johnson said to an aide
If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.
Freelance writer Michael Yon isn't quite Walter Cronkite—who is today?—but he is someone whose opinion is to be respected.  In a short note he starts out with:
This war is going to turn out badly.  We are wasting lives and resources while the United States decays and other threats emerge.  We led the horse to water.
Yes, "We led this horse to water" but will the horse drink?  This is an interesting analogy, given that there is a book out there, The Strong Horse, by a Lee Smith, which talks about what drives politics in Arab lands (not that Afghanistan is an Arab land, but we are reasoning by analogy here).

Just to make things worse, a Afghan Soldier, one of the guys on "our" side, shot and killed four French Soldiers.  There is a Reuters Report to be found here, with video.  President Nicolas Sarkozy has suspended French military operations in Afghanistan.

Now, a well travelled and well experienced American, blogging from Afghanistan, says it is time to pull the plug on this operation.

I am not yet ready, but Michael Yon has caused me to move my position and to entertain the idea of pulling out.  For sure, the ultimate salvation of Afghanistan, the safety of those young women walking to school, for example, is for the Afghanis themselves to work out.  We can't fix this all by ourselves.  Nor can we fix it if we are swimming against the will of the Afghani People.  We are not and can not be the world's policeman.  If some groups are just going to do awful things to themselves, then they are going to do awful things to themselves and there is little we can do to prevent it, especially in remote locations that cost us a lot of money to get to and stay in.

I am looking forward to hearing what returning Captain Greg Page has to say.  To the relief of this family and friends, he is "SHORT".

Thinking time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Left and Right

At this link is a talk given at TED a couple of years ago, in which a Psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, tries to tease out the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center.  I thought it was kind of interesting, in a psychologist sort of way.  As a side issue, it raises the question in my mind; if religion is a product of evolution, have we really evolved past the point of the evolutionary benefit from religion.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, January 20, 2012

Neanderthal Life

This article in New Scientist attempts to reason out the cognitive abilities of Neanderthal people and postulate their social life.  Remember,
We know, for example, that Neanderthals shared about 99.84 per cent of their DNA with us…
A hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Top 1%

On Tuesday The [Lowell] Sun had a front page article, "UMass salary spurs protest".  While the former President of the UMass System, Mr Jack Wilson, wouldn't have been in the top 1% in Lawrence, he would have been in Lowell, with his salary of $425Gs.  And, he is getting that salary during his one year sabbatical, before he comes to UMass Lowell to teach, for only $261,000 pa.  The "Top 1%" isn't just Wall Street scoundrels.  It is more ordinary people, earning less that $1,000,000 per household per annum.  Funny, that isn't how I envisioned it.

More interesting, per Sunday's New York Times, nation wide, you have to earn more than $380,000 (household income) to be in the top 1%  Mr Wilson is in by about $45,000, which is just under the $50,000 median income of the famed 99%.

For Lowell, the number to put you in the top 1% is $336,000.

Not mentioned in the article, by Reporter Chris Camire, is that Adjunct Professor Nural Aman and others are represented by the UAW, a Labor Union.  There is nothing wrong with that and maybe something good (we will have to ask George Anthes some time on "City Life").  I raise the point because the story is incomplete.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am guessing that number would be a lot lower if it was the bottom 90%, rather than the bottom 99%.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Print the Legend"!

Da Tech Guy, who lives somewhere west of here, near Worcester (I think he has a talk show on WCRN 830 AM), has a blog post titled "Santorum wins Iowa, Romney wins narrative".  The post leads with a movie quote:
Ransom Stoddard:  You are not going to print the story, Mr Scott?
Maxwell Scott:  No sir.  This is the West, sir.  When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
The truth is stranger than fiction.

Regards  —  Cliff

SOPA Support

Over at Left in Lowell is a link to a good, albeit longish, discussion of SOPA and PIPA.  Yes, I am driving you through Miss Lynne's blog to get to the link.

In the mean time, here is the Althouse blog talking about how some other "left wing" blogs are up in arms over who is and isn't supporting SOPA.

Regards  — Cliff

Are You Texan?

After the "I'm not from Texas, but I got here as soon as I could" line we have this line, "If life begins at conception, I'm from Texas."

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Rick Perry has dropped out of the race and thrown his support to Newt Gingrich.  Mariana Gingrich and ABC News; not so much.

Those Evil Bain Executives

The Instapundit leads this with "NARRATIVE FAIL".  Democrats receive more Bain Capital dollars than Republicans.
During the last three election cycles, Bain employees have given Democratic candidates and party committees more than $1.2 million.  The vast majority of that sum came from senior executives.

Republican candidates and party committees raised over $480,000 from senior Bain executives during that time period.
I guess this is reflective of the inability of Republican candidates to articulate the case for capitalism.

And, you know that this is a long tradition, going back to the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Coloney.  Otherwise, why would English venture capitalists (known as adventurers in the day) have underwritten those voyages?  It should be obvious that it was to found a place for Democrats to live.  It is true that for a while they lost out, as Republicans took control, but that has now all been reversed, except for Scott Brown.

Regards  —  Cliff

Nap Time

From my Brother in Montclair I got a link to a Boston Globe article on naps.  Turns out naps are not only good, but good for you.

Regards  —  Cliff

Carole Lombard

I knew Carole Lombard died in an airplane crash, but for some now lost reason I thought it was coming back from Brazil.  Turns out not to be true.

This post is late, in that the anniversary was on the 16th.

Regards  —  Cliff

Netflix For Ties

Dapper District has a link to another blog, where the discussion is on a Tie Club, where you can get a new tie for a couple of weeks every month.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Citizens United vs Googe vs SOPA

Over at the Althouse blog the question is asked, if you are against Citizens United, are you against Google opposing SOPA/PIPA?  Wikipedia?

Regards  —  Cliff

Knowledge Diminished

Some of you may have noticed that when you enter a subject in Wikipedia it comes up and then goes black, with some political advertising.  I don't disagree with the message, but it is politics.  Some folks trying to shut down our intellectual life as we have come to know it are policking to get drastically bad laws put on the books about intellectual property.  What is especially disappointing is people like Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are supporting this dross.  The good news is that people like Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) are opposing it.

Here is an article at Wired, explaining it.

To be frank, copyright is morally right and also good for the economic well being of this Nation and it's People.  What is not good is denying "fair use" and prolonged copyrights.  With Wikipedia down, and my copy of the Constitution elsewhere in the house, I can't quickly check, but as I recall, the initial period, 200+ years ago, was seven years.  Where did they get that?  I am betting from Moses.  Remember all those rules about resting on the seventh day and the seventh year, to increase long term productivity?  Sadly, since the early days of our Republic the number of years before the copyright goes to rest has just grown.  Some would allege it was all to protect Mickey Mouse.  Then along came Righthavan, which tried bullying bloggers.  Righthaven had the lawyers and the money to bully others but the courts—those defenders of our Rights as [English]men (and women)—stepped up are putting an end to that sort of bullying.

This does remind me of how the Music Industry dealt with new media.  Very poorly.  Everybody lost something.

From the Insapundit is this web site for electronically expressing displeasure to your elected Representative and Senators.  Good, but even better is picking up the phone and calling the local office of the Honorable Niki Tsongas [(978) 459-0101] and talking to the nice young man who answers the phone.  Identify yourself as a voter in the district and say you are against these new copyright laws under consideration.  52 Seconds.  Then there are the two senators.  Senator Kerry's Boston office isn't nearly as quick picking up the phone.  I gave up and called the DC office and got bumped to bumper music, but a nice young lady did pick up and say the Senator hasn't taken a position on "PIPA" (one of the two bills under consideration), but the Senator is for a free and open Internet.  She also told me the Boston office may just be very busy.  [(202) 224-2742].  Our Junior Senator, Scott Brown [(202) 224-2646], is, per the lady who answered, definitely opposed to these bills.

Ball's in your court.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thoughts on Public Service Unions

We do trust Professors from Georgetown, don't we?  It may be a Jesuit run institution, but it does have high academic standards.  So, we should be prepared to accept Professor Joseph A McCartin's assertion that we have it mostly wrong about public service unions.  For example, the PATCO incident notwithstanding, President Ronald Reagan was union friendly.  What he wasn't was friendly to illegal strikes.  As an aside, some historians tell us that President Reagan's actions with regard to PATCO strengthened his hand in negotiations with leaders of the Soviet Union.

I am with President Reagan, himself a one time union leader.  Unions are an important part of the economic landscape.  But, they are a part only and must be balanced by other forces, just as they balance out management and capital.  Capitalism, at least as we practice it, is a messy proposition, but with few exceptions, the other models leave more to be desired.

Regards  —  Cliff

Constitutional Rights

Re: "constitutional rights"

Just an aside here -- but the Constitution does not grant us any rights.  Rather, it protects those rights which pre-exist the Constitution and government in general.
This is Bender, commenting, at 1/17/12 8:43 PM, on an Althouse blog post.  The blog post had to do with The City of Angels making certain health related demands on the Adult Film Industry.  Calling George Stephanopolous.  We now have a case that might cause us to rethink Griswold v. Connecticut.  Does the Government have the right, given "the penumbras and emanations of the right to privacy, or some such language" to dictate the use of birth control?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Death Panels II

The Anchoress, who told us about Dr Paul Krugman and death panels, goes on to tell us about the case of parents who want a kidney transplant for their three year old mentally retarded daughter.  No can do they are told by the medical professionals.  Their daughter is retarded.  Not even if they are the kidney donor.

The mentally retarded are expendable?  We are headed in the wrong direction.

Regards  —  Cliff

Taliban Lacks Sense of Honor

So there is a big brouhaha over the fact that four US Marines "desecrated" the bodies of some enemies they had killed in Afghanistan.  People are up in arms over this.

I just hope the people up in arms over the four Marines (who deserve punishment for what they did, if they did it) are just as up in arms over this incident, where the Taliban killed someone at prayer in a Mosque.  Sure, the person, Mukarram Khan Atif, was a reporter for Voice of America and had been warned about his line of work by the Taliban.  But, the man was at prayer, in a Mosque.  Is nothing sacred?  Has the concept of sanctuary been lost altogether?  Is a Mosque the only place the Taliban can murder its victims?

I will assert that just because the Taliban is locked into an 8th Century view of right and wrong is not a reason for our service members to act the same way.  On the other hand, do we really want to negotiate with people whose sense of proportion is so limited and warped?  These guys think it is OK to throw acid on little girls who go to school.  Maybe 8th Century is too generous.

Regards  —  Cliff

Death Panels I

Here is a discussion, by The Anchoress, last November, about rationing health care, ending with a comment by Nobel Lauriet Paul Krugman saying some time in the future we will be funding Medicare with a combination of "Death Panels" and VAT (Value Added Tax).

Yes, I don't like VAT either.

The real problem with taking history courses at UMass Lowell is what you learn.  The panels described earlier in the post sound ever so much like those employed in Germany a few decades back to decide which of the handicapped should be killed, to make room for the wounded soldiers coming back from the battlefronts.  And, the truth of what was happening was being withheld from the families of those who were designated "worthless eaters".

Why 70, when we are working to push the retirement age out toward 70, as medical care and general health of the population improves?

But, the idea that healthcare for Congresscritters will exempt them from the travails of those of us on Medicare is just galling.  I thought that the US House of Representatives voted to make themselves subject to the same laws as the rest of us.  Is this not so?

Yes, once in a while Kad Barma makes some sense.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cholera in Haiti

I saw this item on Cholera in Haiti, supposedly brought there by UN Peace Keepers.  I wondered if this was a problem being introduced into North America and possibly spread across the fruited plain.

Ms Tracey Perez Koehlmoos, PhD, MHA, and Programme Head, Health & Family Planning Systems Programme and Adjunct Professor at James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University (Bangladesh) has said:
Cholera is NOT A THREAT TO THE US.  If you wash your hands, rinse your vegetables, and drink tap water in the States, you will be fine.  In the US we have the filtration mechanisms to stop any cholera introduced in its tracks.  It is not unreasonable to believe that well-intentioned tourists bring waterborne ailments like cholera to the US everyday.  EVERYDAY.  Why don't we get sick?  We have effective public sanitation that most Americans take for granted.
In the case of the Nepalese Peace Keepers in Haiti, the report was not released until after they had left, thus avoiding the danger of Haitians going on the rampage against the Nepalese soldiers, who were there to help them.

It turns out that for the poorer nations, those whose annual GDP is less than the Harvard Endowment, UN Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) is good business.  Here are the numbers for December 2011.  But, it isn't all poorer nations.  The US is in there with 128 people doing PKO.  Would Candidate Ron Paul approve?

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nuremberg and Today

Over at Powerline is a blog post incorporating comments from William Shawcross, who has written a book on the Nuremberg Trials following World War II.  The book is Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  Mr Shawcross' Father was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials.

The interesting comment in the post is this quote from Mr Shawcross:
Indeed, were a Nazi transported by time machine from Nuremberg to Guantanamo he would be astonished by the privileges and safeguards which were suddenly available to him.
While judging the Nuremburg Trials a success for the victorious allies in terms of putting down the idea of "Victor's Justice", Mr Shawcross thinks we don't appreciate that we have come quite a ways to where we are today with our military tribunals for trying people who are held at Guantanamo.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Five Thoughts on the Arab Spring

Over at The Washington Post is an article titled "Five Myths About the Arab Spring".  It is SHORT and it is interesting.  I commend it to those interested in what is going on in the Near and Middle East.

Best line is:
America should not write itself into every story:  There are forces in distant nations that we can neither ride nor extinguish.
Sometimes it is just about them.

Regarding the intervention in Libya being about the impetus coming from London and Paris, one wag has noted:
Re Libya, impetus and rhetoric perhaps but they brought knives to a gunfight.  The real ammunition came from the US.
Much as Ron Paul wishes to write us out of the script for international actions, it is going to be either hard, or a different world, where things don't get done.  Which isn't to say the line "America should not write itself into every story" is not correct.

Regards  —  Cliff

For Profit Colleges

What is it with "For Profit" Colleges and Universities that they are under attack?

It isn't like there are no public college and university alternatives.  It isn't like information is not available on them and their success rate.  It isn't like there aren't price comparisons.

And, it isn't like the public colleges and universities in many states don't appear to be operating like they were "for profit" institutions themselves.  Just look at the way UMass Lowell Continuing Education is going to on-line courses in replacement for courses taught in the classroom.  And, because of certain "color of money" issues, there are no tuition breaks for veterans or those over 60, as there are when the class is taught in the classroom.

This morning The New York Times, Page 1, top of the fold, left hand column, has an article with the headline "Romney Offers Praise for a Donor’s Business".  At the third level of headline it reads "The Candidate Asserts For-Profit Colleges Offer Savings"—not at the on-line version, but in print.

As for Candidate Romney praising someone who is a donor to his campaign, I am "shocked".  But, moving right along to the third headline, maybe they do.  Times have changed.  When I was still in my twenties my father would complain about how Long Beach State College, later California State University, Long Beach, was costing him $100 per semester for each of my brothers, including books.  For next semester my books for one course are $100, plus another hundred for my wife's books.  In fairness, with inflation that $100 is probably about $1,000 today. On the other hand, for the three courses I need to complete my second Bachelors Degree, UMass Lowell "Day School" fees are $3,700 and pocket change, which does not include books (this assumes I don't have to pay the $545.22 in in-state tuition).  And maybe some fees, like "First-Year Student Service Fee and some College semester Fees (Science and Math $250) and mandatory Health Insurance (I am covered, thank you).  And the "waivable" Mass PIRG fee of $11 per semester.

A friend of mine was noting that sending a son to UConn was going to be $80,000 for four years, in state.  I don't think my Aunt Edra payed near that amount for my two cousins, but then she worked there.  Maybe she got a break.

If for profit colleges are not economically viable, they will wither and die.  I don't see the need for a front page article on this, except for making political hay.  Do you think it is coordinated with Administration attacks on for-profit schools?

Education is big business these days, whether it is Full Sail University or Harvard or UMass Lowell.  And, being a business, it is subject to the fluctuations of the marketplace.  Right now things are going well, but a number of observers see an Education Bubble coming our way.

So, my question is, for the Editors of The New York Times, a not quite for profit enterprise, who is a suitable Republican to challenge and replace President Obama next January, or does such a person not exist?

Regards  —  Cliff

  I would like to note that The New York Times still does headlines the classic way, with capitals for each of the words, less the minor ones.  I like that.  It seems right.  And they still say Mr or Ms.  A little politeness goes a long ways.
  How do you get PIRG out of Public Interest Group?  I guess because there is an "R" in "Interest".  If Gerry Nutter is against MLF, he should really be against Mass PIRG.
  Wikipedia lists it as a for profit trade school.
  For a private, not for profit, institution, they amass a lot of money.  The GDP of a small nation.  (The Endowment is $32 billion.  Kenya, 86th in GDP ranking out of 183 (not half way down) is $32.092 billion.)

Terrorism Definition

Terrorism is not an expression of rage.  Terrorism is a political weapon.  Remove a government's facade of infallibility, and you remove its people's faith.
Dan Brown, Angels & Demons

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Recording Police With Your Cell Phone

On what should be a no-brainer, some Police Departments are acting more like the Stasi than Americans—they are interfering with citizens using their cell phones to record police actions.

The great news is that Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department has weighted in on a case in Baltimore, saying the police deleting the contents of a man's cell phone (he was recording the arrest of his friend at the Preakness) was Unconstitutional.  Kudos to General Holder and his staff.

I would note that I talked to one Lowell Police Officer, as he was watching over some diggers and fillers and he said that Citizens filming was just fine.  Kudos to the Lowell Police for understanding this.  Not like Boston, down state, which recently lost just such a case and changed its tune.

Here is a paper on this.

Hat tip to the Instapundit, who posted here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Speaking of Words

A sometimes commenter at this Blog, NealCroz, has this quote on his EMails these days:
We are students of words; we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.
American author Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
There you have it.  American education has been failing since somewhere in the middle of the 19th Century.  And, Neal has been a teacher at the college level, so he is partly to blame.

All I can say is, never let school interfere with your education.

Regards  —  Cliff

Armand Mercier, RIP

The [Lowell] Sun is reporting that former Lowell Mayor Armand Mercier has passed away.  The lede was:
Longtime political figure Armand Mercier, considered by many the "voice of reason" during stints as mayor, city councilor and housing director, died Friday morning. He was 78.
Yes, a voice of reason.

A hat tip to Lynne Lupien at Left in Lowell, where very positive comments on Armand Mercier are accumulating.

And Dick Howe has a post up, with photo and video.

Regards  —  Cliff


I was reading somewhere that within the new "strategic thinking" in the Pentagon, as budgets decline, in growth, if not in absolute numbers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, is trying to free up thinking by creating openings by shaking up terminology.  He is right to do so, as once a term gets adopted it labels a lot of activities and allows them to be put into a box and not touched again for a while.  As one person put it,
The Chariman loves terminology debates and fresh thinking from a variety of sources.  He was interviewed in the February 21, 2011 issue of Defense News about fierce and lengthy debates at TRADOC [US Army Training and Doctrine Command] over single words.  Genereral Dempsey responded "I love that" he said, quoting Mark Twain, "the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it's the difference betwen the lighting bug and the lightning."
And so it is!

Words can be straight jackets, but they can also be a cause for confusion, when one person uses a very good word, intending to convey an idea, but another person, from their frame of reference, takes it to be something else.  I saw it at a meeting last evening, where one word, which could point in several directions, caused us to momentarily and silently stumble, at least twice, until someone recognized that it was being taken to mean different things by different people and stepped up and asked for clarification.  Words matter.
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
Robert McCloskey, State Department spokesman
Speak well and prosper.

Regards  —  Cliff

Who Can Bestow Tax Deductions

Donations to Nation of Change are tax deductible?  This is a group that is advocating political change in these United States.  Political Party donations are not tax deductible, but Non-Profit political advocacy groups get to offer the protection of tax deductions?

I came across this because someone put my name on the Nation of Change mailing list.  Their messages come in several times a day.

By the way, their pitch starts:
On January 20, the anniversary eve of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which further privileged corporations over people in our Constitution, NationofChange along with groups across the country are uniting for a day of mass action centered in the San Francisco Financial District.
The part I don't understand is how Citizens United privileges corporations over people in our Constitution.  One may disagree with Citizens United, but it doesn't give privileges to corporations that don't also belong to people.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, January 13, 2012

NYT Reviews Hypermasculine Fashion Bloggers

Over at Dapper District is a short blog post on a New York Times article, "Straight Talk: A New Breed of Fashion Bloggers".  It says:
And not just any guy with an eye for fashion. There are hyper-masculine dudes who “look at men’s fashion the way other guys look at cars, gadgets or even sports,” said Tyler Thoreson, the editorial director of Park & Bond, a men’s retail site.

“There’s the same attention to detail.”

In other words, these are macho fashion bloggers, writing for a post-metrosexual world. “It’s translating this sort of very-guy approach to something that’s so traditionally been quasi-effeminate,” Mr. Thoreson added.
Mr Dapper District, lawyer Lee Warren, didn't get mentioned.  Then neither did I.  Wait until next year.

Regards  —  Cliff

Madame Prime Minister

Here we have Maggie Thatcher, that Woman the French think of as "that terrible Liberal", talking about her policies.  This was 22 November 1990, as she exited after 11 years in office.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog, posted here.

As an aside, Prime Minister's Question Time (Officially Prime Minister's Questions or PMQ) is a wonderful part of the British Parliamentary system.  Tickets for this little Wednesday half-hour ritual are the hardest to get for visitors to Parliament.

Regards  —  Cliff

Who Pays Taxes?

In this post from The Atlantic we have the discussion of rich folks vs middle class vs whomever paying taxes, and throw in corporations.

Call me old fashioned, but I don't really see corporations actually paying taxes.  It is like the assertion of "Free Shipping".  Shipping isn't free.  It is rolled into the cost of the item.  Corporate taxes are rolled into the cost of the item, and if the Corporation only makes capital goods, such as metal presses and industrial sized lathes, then the cost of that Corporation's taxes are rolled into the cost of the capital goods they sell to manufacturers, who roll that cost into the cost of the goods they sell to the consumers.

At the end of the day we are the ones who pay all the taxes.  We just allow our lawmakers to hide some of them from us, so we won't feel the burden as much.

Now take your average millionaire, who made his or her millions in the stock market or financial services or running some company.  At some point, for them, their salary is about what they get to take home.  The price of some consumer products go up by a mil, or less, to help pay that salary, which has to be sufficiently high that the net after taxes is good.  We don't see this until enough of these small increases adds up to a penny, or maybe a nickel.  But, at the end of the day, we pay for it.

And taxes drive human actions.  I know Mary Quant claims she invented the mini-skirt, but the fact is British tax policy was a factor, in that the British did not tax children's clothing and children's skirts were defined by length and that length defined the miniskirt of the 1960s.  A good design for skinny young women in London, who really invented the design.

Regards  —  Cliff

Destruction and Creation

Governor Rick Perry, amongst others, has been denigrating Governor Mitt Romney over Mr Romney's participation in Bain Capital—all those jobs lost.  Exactly.  The problem is, those were jobs that probably needed to be lost so that other jobs could be added to the economy.  Mr Romney was doing just what he was supposed to be doing.  I have laid off people, when the work went away—I didn't lay them off precipitously, but I did lay them off.  In fact, some left before I had to lay them off, because we had talked about it and they understood that they should seek alternatives.  On went to hike over mountain trails.  His wife has a great job and one well paying.  Two others found good jobs elsewhere.  Those I actually had to lay off did find jobs, including a couple of people in their fifties.  It is the way of our system.

To look at it from the point of view of the overall economy, rather than that of your next door neighbor, who was laid offtop down, we can read this article, by Mr David P Goldman, a Columnist for Asia Times Online.  He begins:
Want to see what America would look like without private equity?  Move to Detroit and contemplate the ruins of a city ruined by the placid conformity of auto industry executives.  The  economic impact of the corporate takeover business can’t be measured by the outcome of takeovers as such.  Private equity transformed the way American business thought about the world.  If managers did a lousy job, outside investors could raise money (a lot of it from trade union pension funds as well as university endowments) and kick them out.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry should be ashamed of themselves for bean-counting Bain Capital’s record on job creation.  Any investment firm operating over decades of rapid employment growth will be able to show that the companies it bought added jobs over time.  That’s what the academic studies on private equity show in any event, as Jordan Weissmann reports at The Atlantic.  More relevant is the alternative. We’ve been there, done that, and don’t want to do it again.  Corporate America in the 1950s and 1960s coasted on the postwar monopoly enjoyed by American companies after the destruction of European and Japanese industries.  Detroit in the late 1960s had African-American neighborhoods stretching for miles with well-kept single-family homes and manicured lawns; by the end of the 1970s it had turned into a moonscape.  The rust belt still hasn’t recovered from the laziness of American capital a generation ago.

Private equity takes money from institutional investors who otherwise would passively invest in public securities, and gives them the chance to exercise direct ownership of companies whose management fails to exploit their potential.  It creates competition where no competition existed before.  As in every business, there are ten wannabees for every visionary.  A lot of the success of private equity derives from the fact that equity values rose steadily from 1983 through 2000, and anyone who had a chance to own equity with borrowed money did exceptionally well.  One can argue that many of the players who got rich during the boom years simply rode the big wave.  (Bain Capital, though, was one of the first in, and throughout one of the smartest, and one of the least reckless about using excess leverage.)
This is the way of capitalism.  This is as opposed to command economies, (such as Communist or Fascist economies), where bureaucrats make the decisions as to where to invest.  Experience suggests that a system based upon a capital market is more efficient, and thus produces more and better jobs.

This final quuote sums it up for me:
Romney understands that the American economy runs from the bottom up—that risk-taking and innovation and the stubborn desire to win are what make companies succeed.
As an aside, this does seem to be a different understanding than what Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren believes.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, January 12, 2012

SCOTUS on Religion and Hiring

I was impressed that the recent US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling recognizing "a 'ministerial exception' to employment discrimination laws" was unanimous.  It kind of makes you feel good that once in a while everyone is on the same sheet of music somewhere in the US Federal Government.

Regards  —  Cliff

Debbie and Incivility

Yes, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)—Democratic National Committee Chairwoman—does strike me as out of contact with reality, but her trying to hang the shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords (and others) around the neck of the Tea Party seems the sort of incivility that we are supposed to be toning down.

It looks to be an ugly campaign upcoming.

Regards  —  Cliff

Republican Nominating Convention

I am hoping this guy is wrong, by Columnist Aaron Blake of The Washington Post says a brokered convention is not in the cards.

That would be too bad, and a lot less fun, at least a lot less fun for some of us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Alas Babylon (The Restaurant)

Last night I joined Jack Mitchell at the Babylon Restaurant, down on Merrimack Street, just beyond the light (heading Westbound), just beyond the bridge just beyond the Middlesex campus.

We were there to make a point and the point was that all of our residents here in Lowell are human beings to be treated with respect and dignity and that incidents of vandalism, no matter the root cause, are to be condemned.

In the case of the Babylon Restaurant, Wednesday morning last week, at about 3 AM, someone threw a 20 pound stone through a front window.  There was an article about this in yesterday's edition of The [Lowell] Sun.  In that article the question was raised as to if this was a "hate crime":
Patrick Scanlon, coordinator of Veterans for Peace, said that until police can prove otherwise, evidence suggests the restaurant was targeted based on who the owners are.

"I find it hard to believe that somebody is going to pull up at 3 a.m., with a 20-pound stone and randomly pick the Middle Eastern store out of all the other businesses on the street," Scanlon said. "In my opinion, this was a hate crime."
Perhaps, but the fact is, hate crime or not, such an incident will be more traumatic to recent immigrants than to a long established family running a family business.  Support from the rest of the community is well in order.  And, such support sends a message to all who are new to Lowell that we have some standards and it sends a message to those who think in terms of intimidation of others that the rest of us don't approve of such actions.

However, we don't really know the motivation for the attack.  I speculated last night that it was entirely possible that this was the act of a drunk Lowellian with a car registered in New Hampshire.  Thus, when the police track him or her down, they can charge both vandalism and improper registration of a motor vehicle.  It turns out that this really was someone from New Hampshire, as reported in today's edition of The [Lowell] Sun.  Per the paper, Lowell police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee reports that this was not a hate crime.

Actually, I am a little unhappy about the term "hate crime" in that it seems to flow against the freedom of the First Amendment.  Actual crime should be punished by the law.  "Thought" crimes should be dealt with by society in its attitudes toward people who think outside acceptable boundaries.  We learned about that in grade school.  And we acted on that last night, as Veterans for Peace and others filled the Babylon Restaurant two times over (100 patrons for 50 seats).

While there I took a couple of pictures.  For example, I have a picture of our Mayor, Patrick Murphy.  Also present was Colonel Sam Poulten, himself a Veteran of the war in Iraq, who is the owner of WCAP.  Next is a picture of one of the Veterans for Peace, the Reverend Lara Hoke, of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Andover, MA.
It turns out that the Reverend and I were stationed in Naples, Italy, albeit at different periods.  She was in the Navy and an agent for NIS.

For me, it was comforting to see a lot of different people, different in race, religion and military service, come together to send a message of acceptance.

And, not everyone at the restaurant was there because of the incident.  Lily Faulkner and her Father were there for the food.  It was obvious to me that they are regulars.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember, articles in The Sun go away after a while, to a different place.  I will not be updating their links unless I am bedridden and have read every book in the house.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.
  In checking on the spelling of Sam Poulten's name I read the Wikipedia article on WCAP and found out that Ray Goulding was an early minority partner and that Ray, and his on air partner, Bob (Bob and Ray) were on the air for the first day of WCAP operations.  Bob and Ray were favorites in my home when I was growing.  I still remember some of the characters, like Kindly Doctor Bob.


So the Constitution calls for respecting the acts of other states, which is why this post by Mr Moe Lane is so interesting.  Does this apply to gun laws?

Even more interesting, is the question of how [Democratic Party] Senators from States with "Shall issue" laws will vote on a law to ensure reciprocity amongst states, specifically "to require states to respect concealed carry permits issued by other, less restrictive states."

Of course the House of Representatives passed bill must first get past Senator John Kerry in Committee.  One does have the sense, however, that Senator Kerry is more interested in what he thinks is good for you, than what one might wish for.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Drones [Almost] One Third of US Air Fleet

I received an EMail with a link to the Foreign Policy blog of Reporter Tom Ricks, "The Best Defense".  Mr Ricks, in turn, provided a link to the "Danger Room" blog of Wired Magazine, (Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman, authors) here.  The Tom Ricks blog has a photo of all the Army drones.  Ackerman/Shachtman have a photo of larger drones.  Also, showing their tech savy, Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman embedded a Scrib version of the Congressional Research Report upon which they base their assertions.  The author of the CRS Report is Jeremiah Gertler, an employee of the US Congress.  You can download the Scrib version, but my blogging platform won't accept a URL for the link—too long, I think.

At any rate, interesting if you are interested in drones.  The US Military has even been experimenting with a cargo delivery drone for rations and ammunition (the proverbial "beans and bullets").  Funny how the Daily Mail doesn't give us the reporter's name—Slobodan Lekics.

A word of caution.  Yesterday, on "Democracy Now" news reader Amy Goodman talked about drones as though we could use them with no fear of retaliation.  That is absolutely not the case.  Most wars are ended by some degree of agreement, Germany in 1945, Melos and Carthage being exceptions.  If we can't come to an agreement with our enemies, eventually, somewhere, at some time, someone will find a way to get even.  There is no free lunch.  Put another way, neither morally nor physically can we kill or lock-up every bad guy.

Regards  —  Cliff

Senator E Kennedy on Recess Appointments

The Instapundit linked to a Hhot Air post that asserts that a 2004 amicus brief by the late Senator Edward Kennedy suggests a ten day recess is not sufficient cause for a President to make a recess appointment.  The current Justice Department recommended three days and the President took one day.
In the amicus briefing, Kennedy argued that President George W. Bush’s recess appointment of Judge William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was unconstitutional.  Kennedy thought the appointment was unconstitutional because the Senate was not officially on a recess.  The Senate had been adjourned for 10 days before Bush exercised his recess appointment power.

“President Bush announced Judge Pryor’s recess appointment on the afternoon of Friday, February 20, 2004, the last business day before the Congress returned from its ten-day adjournment,” Kennedy wrote.  “As discussed in the argument below, that brief adjournment is by far the shortest intra-session ‘recess’ during which a president has ever invoked the Recess Appointments Clause to appoint an Article III judge.”
The ever shrinking Constitution.

As I have written before, the solution to this is for the US Senate, as a corporate body, to issue a quiet rebuke to the President.  Perhaps Senator Reid could mention to President [of the Senate] Biden that he, Senator Reid, is putting on hold all Administration nominations, present and future, on hold until those four show up for hearings.  Make the hearings tough.  Then vote to confirm them, even numbers of Democrats and Republicans and not one vote more than needed.

Unfortunately, those 100 men and women see themselves as political operatives rather than members of the world's greatest deliberative body.

Regards  —  Cliff

Another Republican Comer

Mia Love is running for Congress, in Utah.  Video embedded at the link.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Comment on Santorum

Over at the Althouse blog is a discussion of an Ann Coulter piece on the Republican Candidates, brought to light a week later by an article in The Washington Post on Senator Santorum and Faith.  The money quote from Ms Coulter on Senator Santorum:
Santorum is not as conservative as his social-issues credentials suggest.  He is more of a Catholic than a conservative, which means he's good on 60 percent of the issues, but bad on others, such as big government social programs.  He'd be Ted Kennedy if he didn't believe in God.
Here is the full article by Ms Coulter.

Here is the Wash Post article.

It is an interesting thought.

Maybe he understands the concept of Subsidiarity.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 9, 2012

Concealed Carry In Madison

Out in Madison, Wisconsin, Law Professor Ann Althouse, discussed an article in The Cape Times about an interview with the Madison Chief of Police, Noble Wray, over the requirements for obtaining a permit for Concealed Carry, which, at one point included a four hour class:
What exactly do you do for 4 hours?  It seems as though the point of making it 4 hours was to deter people from exercising their rights.  That is, it wasn't really to serve the state's legitimate interest in safety, but for the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of the citizen who chooses to carry a gun.  (Do you recognize the italicized words?  Google them if you don't, especially if you enjoy irony, the exposure of hypocrisy, and fun stuff like that.)
Professor Althouse brings up the issue of protecting your rights while not protecting mine.  How can we prioritize amongst the items in the Bill of Rights?

Regards  —  Cliff

Lost in Space

Back in August of 2010—a year and a half ago—The Air Force launched the first of four AEHF satellites (Advanced Extremely High Frequency).  The launch was perfect.  Then, a couple of days later, the Launch Control folks tried to fire the hydrazine fueled "liquid apogee engine" (LAE), and it didn't.  And it didn't a few days later, on a second attempt.  That is when the launch team got down to serious analysis.  They determined a third attempt to fire the LAE might result in catastrophic failure.  Equally important, they figured out how to use maneuvering thrusters to slowing ease the big satellite up to its 22,300 mile geosynchronous orbit over the Galapagos Islands.  That is, half pound thrust thrusters to move a satellite with a mass of 13,600 pounds.

This is a great story about letting the operators handle the problem.  It is also, I would think, a great story about how "over design" pays off when the known and unknown unknowns become a problem.  Yes, it is so-called "gold plating" and there are times when that is much appreciated by the operators.

I noticed that this story was also published by The Register.

In the interest of full disclosure, my middle brother was the Deputy Program Manager for this program, for Lockheed, the Prime on this project, but he retired before launch.  He was unavailable for comment.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The author of the Air Force Magazine article was Mr Robert S. Dudney.

"Can I Vote for a Mormon"

Lawyer Ken Starr writes on the issue of religion as a litmus test for election.  Mr Starr says the voters should apply no such test.

Hat tip to my wife for this item.

Regards  —  Cliff

Drone Attacks

I haven't retuned the TV after "City Life", and I was planning on going off and doing something else, but then I did a post on Gerry Nutter and one from Samizdata.  In the background I was hearing "Democracy Now" on LTC.

The person being interviewed, and the interviewer, were talking about war by drone attacks, not mentioned that the US has recently pulled back on drone attacks.  They were talking about drones like the work was ongoing, while we have this article from Long War Journal, data 19 December 2011, talking about a pause in the drone efforts.  Sunday's edition of The New York Times had a similar article, front page, above the fold, right hand column.

The real problem was that they were talking about use of drones like they were "free activities" without consequences.  The problem is that some in the US might be unaware of drone attacks when they are ongoing, but those being attacked are aware and eventually there is "blow back".  Almost everyone who is being attacked looks for a way to fight back.  Thus, we should look for eventual retaliation, retaliation in an asymmetric manner.  The "Democracy Now" talking heads missed that point and thus failed to really examine the issues they were talking about.

There is no free lunch.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am old school NATO and thus I reserve the word "Strike" for nuclear and "Attack" for conventional.